Pressley, whose 12-year-old son is autistic, hopes the partnership between public safety and Autism in Bartow, a local nonprofit supporting families affected by autism, will improve communication between the two sectors.
“It’s very important to me. I know obviously that I am not the only parent of an autistic child; as Sandi [Marcus with Autism in Bartow] talked about, the numbers are growingly it seems like yearly, sometimes almost quarterly,” Pressley said. “We just hope that by partnering with Autism in Bartow and the folks affiliated with Autism in Bartow and the law enforcement agencies that were represented here today it will enhance the services we can provide to parents of autistic children.”
Bartow County public safety agencies will present Ride for Autism on Oct. 12 to benefit the goals of Autism in Bartow. Sponsored by BCSO, Cartersville and Bartow County fire departments, Bartow County EMS, Adairsville, Cartersville, Emerson, Euharlee and White police departments, the motorcycle ride will depart Harley Davidson of Cartersville, 2281 U.S. Highway 411, at 11 a.m. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.
“Autism in Bartow was founded a little over 10 years ago. It started out with two moms sitting at a kitchen table, and at that time, autism was relatively you didn’t hear that very much. There were very few families that needed support at that time,” Marcus said during a meeting last week with public safety officials. “I think that the rate 10 years ago was, like, 1 in 1,500 were affected by autism. Now, we are looking at 1 in 50, so you can see the need Autism in Bartow has for our community.”
Meeting the first Thursday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. in Cartersville Medical Center classroom 1, Autism in Bartow works to donate books to libraries, offer grants to schools providing service to children with autism spectrum disorder and holiday parties, among other projects.
“We have set a goal of $2,500 [for the benefit]. Of course, we would love to far exceed that,” Marcus said. “From those funds, we will be using that to help train educators and families within the Bartow County community by sending them to local conferences and also by supplying books to our local libraries and to school libraries on the topic of autism, and we want to also be in the position to perhaps supply some iPads to our school system. There is a desperate need for iPads within our school system.”
Sheriff Clark Millsap said the department hopes to have software in place in 2014 that allows emergency dispatch and public safety to denote addresses of those affected by autism and dementia.
“We are, next year, hopefully, going to get a new [computer-aided design] system, and within that CAD system, we want to have ... this type of information that you are talking about, not only for autism but also for Alzheimer’s, dementia, so that, if an address pops up on the CAD screen, we’ll have just a basic description of ‘autistic child,’” he said.
With the rise in autism, Millsap said working to educate emergency personnel and those affected by autism may help prevent negative encounters.
“... No. 1, autism is something that needs to be brought to the forefront. We are seeing more and more incidents — fortunately not here in Bartow County — where an officer responds to a scene where he is confronted by a large individual who does not know exactly what is going and some type of force is having to be used on somebody who doesn’t really understand what that law enforcement is there to do. We are trying to help Autism in Bartow raise money to actually get the word out,” he said.
Pressley echoed the sheriff’s sentiment.
“... Anytime communication is enhanced between the folks we serve and ourselves, then, quite naturely, it is just a better outcome all the way around,” he said. “There really is a fair amount of misunderstanding sometimes — I don’t imply it’s deliberate by no stretch — but misunderstanding or misinformation about children or adults for that matter with problems arising from the autism spectrum. By partnering and speaking with each other openly and candidly, I just feel like it’s a great thing all the way around for everyone.”
Riders may pre-register through Oct. 7 to reserve a shirt. The cost is $20 per bike and $10 per passenger, which includes lunch and door prizes. Raffle tickets are available for $1 for additional drawings. For more information, contact Marcus at email@example.com or BCSO Capt. Mike Shinall at 770-382-5050 extension 6069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.